Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Iron Range

Leaving Two Harbors, my friend, Max, and I headed north towards Virginia, Chisolm and Hibbing or otherwise known as "The Iron Range", while the rest of group headed towards Cass Lake. The Iron Range was named such because most of the Iron Ore mined in the U.S. comes from this area. It houses the largest open pit mine in the world, the Hull Rust Mine. Also known as 'the grand canyon of the north', it is 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, but only 600 feet deep. We were somewhat disappointed. Looking at it was just like looking at any other open pit mine. I'm not sure what we were expecting, but we didn't get it. But, some of the equipment was enormous as you will see in the picture. What was interesting, the Hull-Rust mine is still operating. Many of the other mines we viewed in the area have long been inactive.

Our first stop was Virginia, MN. We stayed in the Elks parking lot. The day we arrived there was a classic car show going on in downtown Virginia, just a few blocks from where we were staying. We walked downtown and viewed the cars. Later we took a drive over to Gilbert and Eveleth, all within 5 miles. All these towns were founded around the mining community which is still the leading employer of the area.

Moving on the next day, we stopped at Mountain Iron, but found everything was closed. If we had only known, they had a parade and festival the day before. There was even a street dance and we missed it. One thing I wanted to look for in this town was a different kayak. There was advertised an outfitter who had used kayaks for sale. But they too were closed and from what I could see, they didn't have much anyway. So on down the road to Chisolm we went. It was only 15 miles or so to Chisolm so we still had plenty of time to look around once we arrived. We were told we could park in the visitor parking for where the "Iron Man" statue was located. Indeed, when we arrived there was a sign allowing 24 hour parking.

The Iron Man Statue
Most of our transportation in Chisolm was by bike. One of the places we biked was the Mesabi Trail, a fairly new rail to trail. Although someday it will be over 100 miles, it is only completed in places now. Luckily it was completed between Chisolm and Hibbing. It was a 22 mile ride round trip. That was the longest bike ride ever for me. But in Hibbing is where the Hull Rust Mine was located. Also in Hibbing was the Greyhound Busline Museum. If you are ever in the area, do go to the museum. Did you know this nation wide busline was started to provide transportation to the mine workers? In the early 1900s several miners realized the need for the miners to get out to the mine. Very few people could afford cars and the mine was too far to walk. Also they provided transportation between several of the local towns in the area. From this and many mergers and new owners and partners, eventually came Greyhound. But it all started in Hibbing, MN.

These tires cost upwards of $20K each and have to be replaced often because the iron ore can still puncture these huge things. What a hunk of machinery.

Here I am under one of the Mesabi Trailhead signs right outside of the Greyhound Busline Museum.

Back in Chisolm, we rode downtown and found this on the side of one of the older buildings. Do you remember Doc Graham? Now I have to go back and watch the movie again just to see if I recognize anything from the town in the movie.

There was also a Mining Museum in Chisolm on the grounds of a park complex, but it was Sunday and closed. The entire complex was built back in the depression by the CCC and had some beautiful buildings built in the style of a castle, with large walls all around. We also found there was a free dump site there for all you travelers.


Barbara and Ron said...

If you go through Mitchell, SD, the Cabelas seemed to have good prices and kayak selection.

Interesting post.

O. B. Sirius said...

Just watched Field of Dreams recently -- Doc Graham was a aging doctor who became a boy to fulfill his dream on the Field. Burt Lancaster played him. Neat area you are in!